Daniel Tilson: Uncontested elections are un-American and unacceptable

It’s official. Forty-five legislative districts in Florida will feature coronations rather than elections come November. All hail participatory democracy in the Sunshine State!

Actually, most of the coronations came just in time for Happy Hour last Friday, after the candidate-qualifying period for 2014 had officially closed at high noon.

Ceremonies consisted mostly of email and social media messages acknowledging that because they were running unopposed, the 45 incumbents in question had already won re-election and wanted to say “Thank You!” to supporters.

Opponents and detractors…are another story.

If you’re a perpetually pissed-off Republican or Democrat living in uncontested opposite-party strongholds, or an independent looking for balanced debate of the issues…what can you do?

Well, you could send the same letter of protest to leaders of both political parties, county and state elections officials, your favorite newspaper, news and info website or blog, and TV and radio stations saying you’ve been left with no local electoral choice in 2014, and that’s not right, or fair.

And/or…you could run for office yourself. Get a team of a dozen folks who’ll give you eight hours a week each to knock on doors, and with decent messaging, anything can happen. Ask Eric Cantor.

Point is, if political party and election officials can’t or won’t do what it takes to promote civic engagement, debate and choice in every damned district in the state, then we have to get the job done.

Otherwise, we get one-party government. And if that one party is induced to put private special interests over the public interest, we get the record high level of income inequality and record low degree of upward mobility we’re suffering with in Florida today.

The 2014 breakdown on unopposed incumbents in Florida mirrors the ugly math that turned representative state government into conservative Republican government. Of the 45 districts where voters will have no local electoral choice this November, 30 will once again be represented by a Republican, 15 by a Democrat.

That 2-1 advantage for the GOP has come at great cost to lower and middle-income Floridians over the past two decades.

Google search “Income Inequality in Florida”; or “Florida’s regressive tax system.” Skim the contents of your top results. You’ll see middle-class wage and income stagnation, lack of tax fairness, lack of equal economic opportunity, all attributable to years of Republican legislators and governors catering first and foremost to private special interests.

They set the agendas and cast the majority and super-majority votes that created today’s “Tale Of Two Floridas.” Those agendas and votes are the strings attached to billions of dollars in “donations” from the state’s richest private citizens, biggest business interests, and corporate “advocacy” organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.

Those same private interests supply the elected officials they’ve “befriended” with the best public smokescreens money can buy. A searchable, demonstrable history of anti-middle-class actions with very bad consequences gets hidden behind conservative keywords and catch phrases about fighting for “tax and spending cuts,” “smaller government” and “freedom from burdensome rules and regulations.”

The only way such calculated deception can be uncovered is if it’s consistently questioned and challenged. At least come campaign time, every single district deserves access to candidates who clear the air of all the special interest smoke, give voice to the plain truth, and give their communities an alternative narrative about the state of our state and how we got here.

If they lose the election, at least they’ve created connection.

Call it The Loyal Opposition. When you have none in more than one of four legislative elections in a state…

You get Florida, circa 2014. 

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Daniel Tilson


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn